Chess puzzle #12: bad defense

At the lower level most of the games are won (or lost) by tactical errors. See for instance this position (first diagram). It is black to move. What should he play?

Let’s think about this position for a moment. White has an extra and well supported pawn on d6. His rook on a7 looks to be quite menacing. To add to blacks problems, his king is also in a vulnerable position. The direct threat is Qg7 mate. You don’t need to be a chess wizard to see this. Is this position hopeless?

By no means! First of all white has to beware of back rank issues in some variations. And what if black simplifies into a rook ending, taking the dangerous queens of the board? An idea might be:

1. … Qe3+ 2. Qxe3 what else? A king move would lead to a disaster for white, for instance 2. Kh1 Qxd4 3. Rxd4 Re1# or 2. Kf1 Rf8+ also with instant death. So white can’t stop an exchange of queens. 2. … Rxe3 3. Kf2 Re6 4. d7  Kf7 and I do not see how white can make any progress.

Don’t they say ‘rook endings are always a draw’? Of course that’s not always the case, but the drawing potential is rather big.

So that would have been the way to go for black. Note that 1. … Qe5 would also lose. White plays 2. Qh4 (with the double threat of taking the rook on d8 or Qxh7+) 2. … Qc5+ (or Qe3+) 3. Kh1 Qxa7 4. Qxd8+ Kg7+- although white has still some work to do. A funny variation (of course found by Houdini) is 5. Rf1 Qf2! 6. Qc7+ Kh6 7. Qc1+ Qe3 8. Qd1 Re8 9. d7  Rd8 10. Rf7+-.

But instead of the obvious defense black choose a slippery path and decided to put one of his rooks en prise.

See the second diagram. Black played 1. … Rf6 probably with the idea in his mind ‘let’s defend in a more creative way!’ Who knows. Giving pieces up for grabs is a dangerous policy. And this position is no exception. White to play and win. How?

Go to the next chess puzzle…


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